Camp stove generates electricity to charge gadgets

NewImageThe $129 BioLite wood burning campstove converts heat to electricity, so you can charge your mobile phone while you boil up your freeze-dried beef stroganoff.



  1. Camping where a mobile signal is available is a great place for folks who want a mobile signal to camp.

    1.  Wah Wah Wah People shouldn’t live their lives this way, I’m going to shit on everyone. Look if I had kids, camping is a really cheap long term method of entertainment, furthermore they can do whatever they want, I still need to get stuff done. So sure I’m not giving up my digital life for nature but I visit nature every goddamn day and I’m not using that as an excuse for 3 bloody weeks of shit to do to pile up and capsize myself.

      So for all those out there who know how my life should be lead, toss off. If I want to cook marshmellows, canoe, and answer email I will bloody well do so, preferably without this “I’m a better person than you because i camp for real” attitude (I’m not sure “Teller” is saying this but I know others will and do).

      1. The website has a larger model for home use in third world areas. A USB charger makes more sense when you think about it. Electricity in those areas can be sporadic if at all, and cell phones are the main engine of communication — talk, text & web. 

        The original design doesn’t look like 1st world issues were considered in the stove’s creation. The mini-camping stove looks like a marketer pushed the idea on the company.

        1. Thats the point. The mini camping stove gets the public attention and then they can charge a higher price on it so they can afford to make the full 3rd world stoves. PERSONALLY I want the 3rd world stove more than the dinky camping stove. But thats just me I guess.

          1. It’s not just you.  Two or three years ago when these folks were first showing their larger stove off, they made it clear that’s what they were doing.  The (newly available) 1st world backpacking/camping stove is there to subsidize the 3rd world cooking stove they’ve been selling overseas for a few years now.

      2. For what it’s worth, I thought Teller was making a joke about “WiFi campers” at the coffee shop — folks who sit there all day using the free WiFi, and only buying one small coffee. 

        But, I could easily be wrong.

      3. A friend of mine bought a cabin where he would be sure there was no cell phone reception and he did not have a lnad line installed.  Making a phone call requires driving a mile to the top of the ridge for a cell signal.

        1. I hope your friend enjoys their cabin, and from your description (you use the word “drive”) a car charger might make more sense for them. Even so, they might well want some charging solution, so that they know they will, if they should so desire, be able to hike up that ridge and chat with you, or send you the latest pictures they’ve taken, or even call for help.

          1. Calling for “help”  doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an emergency. Cell phones have created a whole new breed of “emergencies”. What ever happened to “Going it alone”?

      4. i dont think hes “shitting” on people, it really isnt the most practical solution to anything. Too me it looks like a dressed-up science experiment/ failed-multi tool. I’d rather use a small solar pad to charge a usb device. The problem is the design is an attempt to prove something can be done…good design logically provides a solution to a problem. Its like anything at the sharper image: “cool! a hammer/flashlight/ radio/ knife!!!!”
        there is a cool factor to the device… but it’s use and practicality is a different question.


        ….larger 3rd world application is much more of a successful concept.

        1. I’m sure solar will often be preferable – but perhaps not deep in the woods, in the overcast, or in the winter.

      5. Apparently, the great outdoors isn’t having a positive effect on your mood.  You’re throbbing with fury over Teller’s simple statement that not everyone wants to have a mobile signal.

      6.  You sound stressed. I’d suggest taking a week off and actually going somewhere without cell and data access, but apparently the world stops moving if you do that, and then we’d all die.

      7. Pretty extreme reaction for someone who supposedly doesn’t care what others think.

    2.  Having piggy-backed a hypothermic man with a twisted ankle down a tractor trail to a waiting ambulance on my last camping trip, I can vouch for the fact that mobile telephones have a non-frivolous purpose when on these kind of ventures.

      1. I agree to that. I rely on maps and a compass when backpacking, but always pack the phone (turned off) in case of an emergency, also understanding that I most likely do not have service. I think the real danger of packing a phone in the wild is the delusion of safety it creates. Dont expect to get service, and for heavens sake, learn how to use a compass and map as to avoid relying on a gps function. 

    3. I agree. Also, you may not be able to burn wood at all in most areas, so good luck with that too. In some campgrounds campers aren’t allowed to collect so much as a single twig of wood. 

      But it is strange that they use the term “mobile phone”, instead of “mobile device”, I love a good read out in the quiet.

        1. It’s storage media in the form of a removable optical disk, often used as novolatile slow write, fast read secondary storage. 

        2.  Its like BluRay, which replaced DVD’s, which replaced CD’s (compact discs), which replaced 3.5″ floppies, which replaced, 5.25″ floppies, which replaced cassettes, which replaced reels, which replaced punch cards, which replaced I suppose physical mechanical manipulation…

          Which has all been made pretty irrelevant (unless you are a media company) by 16GB USB thumb drives for less than 10$ and fast online service.

  2. After you factor in food you eat (but you’re going to do it anyways + you need exercise), is this any more carbon neutral than a dynamo.

    Personally I doubt it due to the poor conversion of heat to electricity (dynamo is wayyyy better) and the fact that yes I do want another smore thank you very much.

    1. Burning wood is bad for your health and the environment.  That’s not going to stop campers from doing it any more than alcohol being a toxin stops people from drinking.

    2. It is actually a more efficient type of stove. The rocket stove design consumes half the wood of a typical camp fire, the primary purpose of the electricity generator is to power a fan wich increases the air intake making it more efficient still. The 4W electric output is just a byproduct. So if your going to cook your food anyway there is no extra carbon produced. Keeping it running just to charge a phone is a different story though. Burning wood is long term carbon neutral as the carbon has been taken up by the trees.

  3. This will do quite nicely in the event of Zombie Apocalypse.

    (Although, if everyone I know is now a zombie, who will I call with my fully charged phone?)

    1. Maybe there’s an app that can tell you where the zombies are converging.  Of course, that might rely on all the zombies also having phones.

      1. I’m sure the zombies will have phones (heaven knows I’ve seen enough seeming zombies staring into their phones) – but will they keep their phones charged?

        1. They’ll probably all be playing Plants vs. Zombies, and wondering why they can’t play as the good guys.

  4.  I’ve eaten a lot of freeze-dried food, and I gotta say: beef stroganoff has always been one of the best ones.  Even back in 1999 beef stroganoff tasted and had better mouth feel than anything else I tried, such as spaghetti, veggies, hamburger.  Something about stroganoff just works with freeze-drying.

  5. Better than a solar cell because….?  I’ve also seen handcrank flashlights with USB charger connections, not sure about the quality…..

    1. My Dad has a solar panels for charging – he also has one of these.  In the UK, this wins hands down, as our feeble sunlight is rarely enough to get a good charge.

      1. My Dad’s house near Birmingham has solar panels on the roof now and, for most of the year, he generates enough to keep the meter rolling backwards.  He’s fairly frugal and keeps the lights off in the rooms he isn’t using, but he runs an (LCD) TV, fridge, chest freezer etc.  Cooking and heating is all gas though.

  6. I’m looking at the larger, home use model at the BioLite website.. The home model looks more practical than the weekend camping stove. Bigger and able to hold a big pot, it would be something I wouldn’t mind taking to a cabin. That little thing wouldn’t be worth the extra cost. Rather have a dynamo or a solar charger for a quick trip.

    1. Even the home model could use some modifications to make it more practical.  Instead of just a usb power port I’d add two simple +/- terminals so you could jury rig a connection to anything.  Maybe you could connect it to the battery terminals of a device that has no usb power input.  It wouldn’t be much power but it would be something.

  7. With the hand-crank generators, it takes ten solid minutes of cranking to recharge the cell phone enough for a one-minute call. While I like the idea of capturing all the energy possible out of the fuel, I honestly don’t think you’re going to get enough to make much difference  for that application.

    On the other hand, it could recharge a radio or something else which draws less power than a phone, so there may be ways to actually make it useful.

  8. Recently returned from a four day backpacking trip and I would have loved to have had one of these; not for phone calls or data use — there was no service where we were — but so I could take unlimited photos. See, the best camera I own happens to be in my iPhone 4, and Iwas disappointed to encounter a particularly spectacular view right when the battery gave up its ghost. We carried a stove anyway, so this wouldn’t require any more weight. Great device.

  9. Are you kidding me?
    These people can hardly afford a decent meal and this company wants to sell them an apliance with an USB port on it?
    Come on boingboing moderators!

    1. They sell it to the NGO which gets a fat check cut by a new Silicon Valley philanthropist. The concept of the gas induction stove is actually really great for reducing carbon and has been a fairly open source project among the backpacking light community for years. Maybe the Hacker space community can open source the generator usb part? SO WAIT EDISON WINS NOW WITH DC 5 volt??? Poor Tesla….

    2.  When you buy the camp stove they give away the bigger one to a 3rd world country. Although for some reason I can’t see to find that on their website…

    3. Believe it or not, the third world isn’t entirely made up of starving Ethiopian refugee camp folks.  There are plenty of people who can afford food, and still cook with wood/charcoal.  And a huge number of them use cell phones for… practically everything.  Making it easier, or just possible, to charge those phones at home where there may be no electricity is big deal.

        1.  “airtime minuets”

          I love that typo!   It made me think of people jumping in the air while dancing to a lovely minuet.  :-)

    4. Assuming that they will be sold in the developing world, as opposed to provided by NGOs or aid groups, I’m still not sure I see the problem. Visit the website and look at the arguments they are providing for why this is a good idea (fuel savings, health improvements, greenhouse emission reduction, money saved) and then add to that access to electricity (some, not a lot). Its easy to be skeptical, but in places in the devel0ping world where reliable electricity can be hard to come by, mobile phones enable all kinds of services and this kind of cooking fuel is already standard, this definitely has some potential.

      My chief concern on this would be life cycle and maintainability. Details on the workings of the HomeStove are more sparse than that of the CampStove, but assuming the same tech setup, I’m not sure what happens when the internal battery reaches the end of it useful life.

    5. Go read about places like Kenya where food isn’t the issue, reliable power is.  People will travel for miles to go to markets where they can pay to recharge their phone.  People in these countries have jumped straight to cell phones because they never got rural phone lines but they never got many power lines either.

    6. There are lots of places in the developing modern world where people can afford perfectly decent meals, but they cook those meals over wood fires and get respiratory diseases from the wood smoke.  

      The big cookstove  HUGELY reduces wood smoke pollution, uses the wood much more efficiently,  AND recharges the mobile phones that everyone has due to their countries leapfrogging over land-line tech directly to mobile.

      You should perhaps update your stereotypes of ‘these people.’

  10. Rocket stoves work. Never mind the bit about charging devices, do these work better? In fact has anyone actually tried one? I’m very curious to know if they do actually generate significant amounts of electricity and even enough to drive the fan. 

    1. Visit youtube and have a hunt around, there are quite a few video of people unboxing and ‘operating’ these things. Manufacturer claims (take with salt) these use a similar amount of fuel with less emissions (smoke and CO2) compared with rocket stoves.

  11. So instead of making a camp fire, I carry around a 2-pound brick to make a smaller campfire? So I can save on twigs?

    For charging, couldn’t they instead make some ounces-light device i place at/near my traditional campfire or ultralight stove?

    1. Well not *just* so you can save on twigs. :)  But it will be less smoky (if you care), boil water faster than a comparable fire (but you’d probably just build a bigger fire), but if you are going to be carrying a stove and fuel cannisters anyway…

      As to the charging device, you need to keep the electronic away from the heat source, so ‘in the fire’ is out. The CampStove design seems to have both physical fire containment and some kind of heat sink between the fire and electronics,  suggesting that ‘near the fire’ might also be out.

    2. Probably better off with a solar power strip.  Strap it to the outside of your pack and your device should be recharged, assuming it is sunny of course, by the time you get into camp.  You’ll be out in the sun all day anyway, might as well put it to use.

      1. “You’ll be out in the sun all day anyway”

        That depends a lot on where you hike.  I’ve hiked about a quarter of the Appalachian Trail and encountered plenty of segments where the tree cover would significantly compromise the utility of a solar panel.

        1. Of course.  I’ve been in box canyons where even GPS doesn’t work.  But even in the winter you can have days where you are above treeline getting baked by the sun from every direction (reflected sunlight).

  12. How about hooking a generator up to Tibetan prayer wheels?  Recharge your Nokia and your karma!

  13. I totally agree to Gideon.
    This is really a great idea. And the overall background of this concept is surely not a first world backpacker who wants to charge his gadgets offroad or off-grid. This just comes in handy to raise some money for their vision.

    Wood (and burning it to heat sth.) means using a “first class” source of energy (burning sth.) for a “second class” application (e.g. cooking).
    For cooking you need about 100 °C +, but burning wood provides temperatures far way above this. So a lot of “excess” energy (and not completely burned “fuel”) is wasted and goes up the chimney (if there is one *cough*).
    (-> )

    This wasted energy is now used for improving the combustion process (thus reducing harmful gases, smoke emission and soot production) and simultaniously providing a source of low voltage electrical energy on demand (disregarding the overall energy conversion efficiency, as the wood would have been burned anyway).

    Great idea. But I would prefer some DIY guide, including sources/links to a basic circuit layout, cheap peltier-elements, heat-exchangers and fans for implementing it to “your very own” clay oven.

    That would cost a few dollars, not 100+.

    And just imagine plugging your mobile gadget to some clay oven in the middle of Africa to charge it.

    Just think of it.



    1. Well ultimately that $100 figure really depends on the quality of the components that are used.  Cheaper TEC modules don’t stand up to thermal cycling as well as higher quality units, and even then there are varying levels of durability.   Circuit design, fan, parts quality, ect..

      This company shows the lowest cycling units they have are rated for 5,000 cycles.  And while that’s a lot, depending on the conditions that might only be 3 years of daily use.  (Thinking more about your clay oven setup than the portable stove.)  Obviously using one the 30k or 120k cycle units makes more sense, but at the same time affects the price of the unit.

  14. heck with the burning wood- I want this to convert the heat thrown off my motorcycle, car, oven, kiln…

  15. These guys have done an *excellent* job of getting their marketing out to the blogosphere.  I have seen it on every tech blog now, with a very positive report, but none have them have actually seen or reviewed the product.  Every post I’ve seen has the stock photo supplied by the company.  

    Did they have some special PR technique?

    1. To see actual product reviews instead of PR reports, you’ll have to look at personal blogs and youtube. The stoves have been shipping for the past month, I got mine last week and just last night lit my first test fire. It works as advertised- the power unit pushes air into the fire, making extremely efficient, hot combustion, with VERY little smoke. I boiled a kettle of water in about 6 minutes. This is a really good stove for campers who don’t want to hike in with fuel bottles- I can definitely see using this stove in the backcountry and not using any other fuel aside from twigs and sticks.

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